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article imageINDYCAR: Montoya opens with win, first on a road course since '99

By John Duarte     Mar 30, 2015 in Sports
St. Petersburg - A long time has passed since Juan Pablo Montoya has won on an IndyCar road course. But the Colombian racer wasted no time in getting the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series started.
Montoya, whose last road-course victory was at the now-defunct Molson Indy Vancouver in 1999, won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after battling the reigning IndyCar series champion and Team Penske teammate Will Power. The margin of victory was .993 seconds.
“Roger (Penske) hired me to get the job done and I do my best to get the job done,” said a jubilant Montoya after the race.
Montoya left IndyCar racing after the 2000 season with one championship and an Indianapolis 500 victory. He raced in Formula 1 for six years before returning to North America and competing in NASCAR for seven years. He moved back to IndyCar in 2014 and won one race, on the oval at Pocono in July. Montoya had served notice of things to come after a race in June.
“I think the wins are coming,” he said after the Houston race. “I think once it clicks, it's going to click pretty well.”
The Verizon IndyCar Series season got off on the best-possible foot for Team Penske, with all of its cars occupying the top four places for the start of the race. Power qualified on the pole and was followed by Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Montoya. As the race came to an end, the teammates had captured four of the Top 5 spots. Montoya won, Power was second, Castroneves fourth and Pagenaud fifth.
Montoya was still finding it hard to believe he had won the opening race of the 2015 of the IndyCar season.
“If you told me this morning I was going to win the race, I would have said 'no,'” said Montoya. “I just wanted to get some good points, have no mistakes, have good pit stops, see where we finish.”
Power did his best to get by his teammate to no avail. The last opportunity came with 11 laps remaining in the race. Power tried to pass Montoya on the inside of Turn 10. Montoya closed to door and the two cars made contact. Power said he was hoping to surprise Montoya but was instead surprised by Montoya's “aggressive” turn.
“That was really my only chance. I thought maybe I would catch him off-guard there,” Power said. “If I hadn't damaged my wing, maybe I would have had another shot. He wanted to win the race and so did I.”
Montoya said he saw Power “make the move,” felt Power was not close enough to make the pass.
“If he was beside me, I would have said 'OK. Go ahead.' When I got to the turning point, he wasn't even close,” Montoya said. “It's a shame we touched wheels. But it's all good. It's racing.”
Team owner Roger Penske said he has no problem with his drivers battling each other on the track.
“We said at the beginning. 'Let's take care of ourselves,'” the team owner said. “It was a fight between our two guys in front. At the end, they've got to go race. It was just an amazing weekend.”
Only Tony Kanaan could break the sweep. He finished third.
"We broke up the Penske 1-2-3-4 (finish), so we’re happy about that," said Kanaan, adding that he is ready for a very competitive year. "Starting the season with a win and a second place, those two guys, we know they are going to be strong all year."
Power agrees.
"It’s going to be a battle between teammates for the championship, I’m sure," Power said.
A new event on the Verizon IndyCar Series makes its debut on April 12, 2015, at NOLA Motorsports Park, in Avondale, Louisiana.
More about verizon indycar series, grand prix of st petersburg, Juan pablo montoya, will power, Auto racing
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